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Imphal Barracks, Osnabruck; Transit into History

Posted in Osnabruck 76-84?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on May 8, 2012

Imphal Barracks, Dodeshiede, Osnabruck. (L-R) RHQ, Band Block, Cookhouse

My most poignant memories of army life took place in Osnabruck and Imphal Barracks, where I was stationed from around 1976-1984.

Where I lived for 8 years

I remember the downy birch trees from which clouds of yellow pollen drifted, when the wind blew across the barracks, in spring. It greatly irritated Mick Henderson, our bandmaster, who suffered hay fever. The species of birch were specifically Betula pubescens around which the ‘fly agaric,’ toadstool (Amanita muscaria), with its distinct red cap and white spots, often grew. Downy birch and the ‘fly agaric’ have a symbiotic relationship. Occasional some quite poisonous toadstools grew around our band block, including the ‘death cap’ and ‘destroying angel.’ I remember the winters when borders of grey-black snow, hardened to ice, edged the regimental square and paths from December until April. And in summer, the grass between the various ‘blocks’ was parched a thirsty brown. I did most of my taekwon-do, from white belt to black, training under the canopy of birch trees by our band block and had an intimate relationship with the seasons from the dank smell of the lichen on the papery bark of the birch trees to the taste of the dust that my footwork kicked up in the summer. And of course, a myriad of faces traverse that landscape.

Probably 1978, with Dave Bott, on the patch of grass outside the band block which later became our volleyball court

April 1982, shortly after my black belt, with Georg Soupidis (then 3rd dan)

It was, in retrospect, quite a beautiful barracks, spacious and well-ordered with tended gardens and where buildings, with the exception of the gymnasium, were single floor buildings and hence blended into, rather than dominated the wooded background. In this sense it was the antithesis of austere barracks such as Imphal Bks, in York,  where there wasn’t a shred of grass, or functional, somewhat clinical type barracks such as Cambrai, in Catterick Garrison, from which we’d just arrived.

some of the old married quarters

A posting of eight years was a long one and it meant that you became acquainted with the small army of civilian staff that work in every barracks but whom you rarely got to know. Most of the small army of civilians were women and indeed, the only man I can remember was ‘Peter,’ the barber. Other civilians, some British, worked in the WRVS and the library both of which were opposite the Guardroom. the faces of some of the German women who worked in the cookhouse, I can still remember.

one of the ‘bungalow’ type barrack blogs which typified Imphal and Mercer barracks

There was also a small contingent of individuals who worked just outside the barrack entrance: Archi Konker and his family ran a highly successful ‘schnell imbiss’ wagon which stood by the Naafi every evening in the late 1980’s. Then there were the taxi drivers, one of whom was Richard Muller, who in the summer of 1981, drove me to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam when I missed my connecting train.

I visited Imphal Barracks in 1990 and considering I’d only been out of Germany for 4 years, Osnabruck was almost a ghost town and even by then Imphal Barracks had been fenced in and its environs, Am Limberg and the Naafi, were inaccessible.

the tank road (Am Limberg) which ran along the side of Imphal and Mercer barracks

At 1500 hrs on Thursday the 26th of March 2009, Imphal Barracks lowered the Union Flag which had flown over its domain for 64 years. They keys to the main gate were handed over to the Mayor of Osnabruck. So many people, both military and civilian had lived and worked here and yet trawling through the internet, so little remains as a testament to its existence. Of all the thousands of photos that must have been taken by soldiers and their families, only a handful of sources can be found.

the flag is lowered outside the guardroom and in front of what was RHQ

The barracks deserted, the gates are locked

However, Jim Blake’s, the schnell imbiss close to the barracks, is still going strong.

Jim Blake’s – still around and still getting good reviews

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© 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Further References

Photos of the deserted barracks taken in 2010. (link)

Last Post, Osnabruck. (Royal British Legion)

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More Westphalian Winters

Posted in 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, Band, BAOR, Osnabruck 76-84? by 노강호 on February 6, 2012

I recently found these photos lurking in the bottom of an old BFPO box. They were taken in Osnabrück, Imphal Barracks, either in 1979, in the winter before Dave Smith and I went to Kneller Hall, or in 1981/82, after we returned. I’m making this guess as Andy Coombes is in a  similar winter photo (Westphalian Winters) and had left the band by the time we returned from KH.

Charlie Harris posing in the snow

Mick Pickering and Phil Watson

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

Westphalian Winters

Posted in Osnabruck 76-84?, Uncategorized by 노강호 on July 22, 2011

a great photo capturing Phil Watson and Andy Coombs at a significant moment

I have special memories of winters in Osnabrück. I think these photos must have been taken around 1978 because Dave Smith and I went to Kneller Hall in 1979 and Andy Coombs had transferred to another band by the time we returned.

Osnabrück winters were severe with heavy snow appearing usually at about the same time we were playing in the Hallemünsterland show, which was every December. The snow hung around for months and I clearly remember chunks of compacted snow, the remnants of that which had been swept to the side of pavements, loitering into early April.

Then, there were odd occasions when the finest drizzle fell onto the freezing ground and everything was glazed in a fine sheet of black ice. I only remember this kind of weather twice over a 10 year period but it was memorable because for several hours everything was suspended; all traffic stopped and the pavements were so treacherous that even walking  a short distance was dangerous.

There were a numbers of photos taken at the same time as the two I have added here, the others included Knocker Patterson, Bones and Mick Pickering.

Both photos are intensely familiar to such a point I can almost feel the nip of a Wesphalian winter and smell dinner as its aroma drifts from the nearby cookhouse. In the photo above, to the left of Phil Watson’s head, are the birch trees around which I practiced taekwondo over 7 years.

Bob Hallett and John Adye on the edge of the Regimental Square

Silver Birch trees were so prolific in northern Germany, they covered Imphal Barracks and I remember an enormous, somewhat desolate forest of silver birch surrounding Bergen-Belsen. In autumn and spring, Amanita Muscaria mushrooms, which grow in a symbiotic relationship with silver birch, would spring up around them. In spring, the Catkins, laden with pollen, were a great source of irritation for Mick Henderson and on a blowy afternoon, I recall watching the trees around the Regimental Square swing and sway in the wind agitating a cloud of yellow pollen.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.